The marathon.
Sedona, AZ '11

Total: 486 miles
Est time: 16 hours
Route and map by Google.

[ Friday - October 7, 2011 ]

The weapon of choice.

Meet at 7:00 AM in the morning at the Irwindale, Azusa Denny's.  Sure.  After a bit of scrambling to get all of the last minute things together I arrive at the diner at 7:30.  There is no sign of my partner anywhere and here I am scrambling to get here.  Oh well.  It is what it is.  About 15 minutes later, Minh shows up fully geared for battle.  He had forgotten something and had to double back to get it.

It's your normal Denny's breakfast.  Good but nothing to rave about.  At 8:30 we're off to fuel the Blackbird.

The plan of attack for today is to spend as much time on the freeways to get to Flagstaff as fast as possible.  The weather history shows Flagstaff (approximately 7500 feet tall) to be in the low 20F at night.  The highs are in the mid 40Fs.  That's not too bad but I don't want to get there at night and contend with icing conditions.  So the sooner we get there, the better off we'll be.  Having been on the 89A HWY before, I don't want to worry about icy switchback roads in the pitch black.

The  temps between L.A. and Barstow is a mix bag.  For the most part it was cold towards the Victorville and Barstow end.  We had to stop and put on the heated clothes.

Time to hook up to preserve the body core temps.

We are suppose to stay on the freeway all the way to Flagstaff, but I can't help but wonder how things are going in Amboy.  Have they finished the renovations and fully restored the motel?  Last I recall, two years ago on the Murphy's Law of an Arizona trip, the diner was coming together and the rooms were still being restored.  The gas pump was on the verge of being completed if not already completed.  Still, my curiosity got the better of me so we departed the 40 freeway for a while and headed towards Roy's Motel and Cafe.

OK I admit it.  It's been a while since I've taken the 8GS on a long haul so I forgot how to read the fuel prediction and make the correct determination.  Not only that, but the constant climb, even a gradual one, has the 8GS consuming much more fuel than it normally does.  Darn, I should have brought along that 1 gallon Rotopax gas can.  Not only that, while in the middle of nowhere I had this epiphany, "I forgot to bring the BeadBrakr and tire levers."  Oh bother!  I was kicking myself while doing 75 MPH when we were on the 40 freeway.  What good are the replacement tubes when I can't get the rubber off the rim to repair a puncture?  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  I just have to hope that I don't get a puncture.  Ack!  Now I wish I had taken the 12R instead.  Then I wouldn't need the tire levers nor scissor jack and would simply plug the tire if I encountered a nail.  I'll just have to pray to the god of luck that nothing bad will happen to my tires.

130 miles and refueled at Ludlow.

The prior thought of riding the 12R instead the 8GS went out the window when we're on our way to Amboy via the National Trails HWY (Route 66).  This road definitely needs some TLC.  And to think this is a good section of the road.  It's windy.  Dust devils are clawing at the dirt terrain all over the place.  It's good proof that this is a high desert.  26 miles later, we cross the railroad track and Roy's is dead ahead of us.  What the heck is this?  Why is there a line of people blocking the road.  Sure I can see there is a tour bus parked on west bound side of the HWY.  Without needing an educated guess, I'm sure these people are associated with said bus.  But "What is up?" with the chain of people across Route 66?  What are they doing?  We slowly ride pass the gas pumps, while negotiating a couple's indecision as to whether to come or go, and park in the open area.

1/2 mile long train and dust devils.

Time for me to get an update Roy's T-shirt and pickup a refrigerator magnet for my wife.  While standing at the register to pay for my trinkets, I quickly discovered these folks are from Germany or at least from that region.  They were having difficulty trying to get the cashier to give them three Route Beers.  Yes, you read that right.  Route Beer as in Route 66 Beer, which is root beer.  Cute.  I can understand what they were trying to tell the cashier (Hispanic in nature), but I didn't step in because they already have a translator.  I guess my two years of high school German can account for something.  However, knowing me I'd probably end up saying something like, "I'm a jelly doughnut."

When I query the cashier about the status of Roy's, I was pleased to hear that they're coming along.  They're actually "Oh so close" to opening the diner.  They're in the process of going through the California red tape to open a restaurant.  In terms of business, they're doing quite well due the amount of interest related with the glamor of US historic Route 66.

As I look in the back of the entire complex, the other motel rooms have not been restored and they're locked away behind a chain linked gate.  A lot of the windows are still boarded up.  The detached motel rooms in the front have been cleaned up and repainted, but they still don't look like they're ready for business.  Still, it's good to see a piece of America survive the ravages of this economy.  Good luck to them.  I hope they succeed.  I'll be back in a year or more to see how things progress.  I've grown quite fond of this little place despite the fact that it's so heavy with tourists these days.

While the tour bus boarded and left, I couldn't help but notice a little oddity on the other side of the HWY.  What is a chicken trailer doing out here?  Is it just waiting for the right moment to open shop?  It's anybody's guess.  Odd as this is, it doesn't even come close to topping the oddity my friend Eugene and I encountered on the Death Valley '06 trip.  An open Beef Jerky stand at a street corner in the middle of the desert.  Not only was it the strangest of things to find an open beef jerky stand but there are customers to boot.  With video camera in hand.  Trust me, I wasn't about to run over and find out what they were really selling.  Perhaps it is beef jerky, but you never know.

The odd beef jerky stand south of Death Valley.

Once we were done having fun poking around the chicken stand, we walked back to Roy's and finally understand the rational for the queue of tourists stretched across the HWY earlier.  They were all taking pictures of themselves with the painted Route 66 on the road.  Laughing at the comedy of it all, I decided to give the Captain a picture with the painted road sign.

If ever there are signs of discontent or individuality between provinces and/or states (in this case former countries), I was given a quick course in the distinction of people when I started talking to a Harley pillion.  When I first talked to the husband, I can tell there is a GB accent, but he didn't disclose where he came from.  When I, in turn, spoke to the wife of the pair, and asked the question, "Are you from England?"  She quickly and sharply replied, "I'm Welch!  I don't like the English."  Oops, and understood.  I notice the heavier accent but I'm not savvy enough about the region to discern the difference.  The mistake, or generalization, I made can be equated to me being asked whether I'm Japanese or Chinese.  In my case I understand the reason behind the question because for other races it might be hard to distinguish between different Asian races.  I'm neither Japanese nor Chinese.  Like myself, the gal wasn't offended but wanted to set the record straight.  They're a group of people from Wales here with rented Harley Davidson touring the western US.  They're spending every night at a different location.  Eventually they'll end up in Los Angeles to fly back home.  I guess the exchange rate between either the British Pound or the Euro is high enough that it makes a vacation within the states more economical for them.

Lunch at Carl's Jr.

I hadn't anticipated this type of luncheon location but there wasn't much choice.  I would have preferred something a little more accommodating, but when you don't have a choice, you don't have a choice.  However, we did get a bit of entertainment before we continued on our trek towards Flagstaff.  Minh tossed one french fry and we both watch an ensuing food war.  The one pigeon was trying to swallow half of a fry while making a run for his life.  The others are giving chasing wanting their share or just to steal the whole thing.  There is nothing like the sight of a pigeon running around with a big fry sticking out of its mouth trying to swallow the entire thing as fast as it could.  In the end the scuffle ended when another pigeon grab the fry, from the one pigeon's mouth, and downed the food.  I guess you can equate this to cheap entertainment at the expense of the local pests.

Off again and on again.  That's the story as we remove and put on our heated equipment.

Again, the climb to Flagstaff was a long drawn out climb.  That and the fact that we had to drive between 75-80 MPH to stay in front of the big rigs didn't help the 8GS's mileage much.  I was seeing 42-43 MPG on the real-time fuel burn rate.  In some cases down into the 38 MPG.  That's unheard of for a vehicle that is known for 53 MPG in the city and 62-64 MPG in the HWY.  I'm sure the Blackbird wasn't really doing any better, but then again a 6 gallon tank does offset the fact we're getting poor MPG.  I'm watching the fuel prediction and running the GS to its limits while trying not to run out of fuel.

It's getting late in the day and the sun is starting to set on the Interstate.  Our shadows are now drawn out like giraffes on stilts, and the temperature is dropping.  What was once the mid 70F is now dropping down to the mid 40F.  At the 32 miles mark to reach Flagstaff, the 8GS can go on no further.  I had to pull off the Interstate for fuel.  Still, it's not too bad as I managed to squeeze out 180+ miles with 3.8 gallons of fuel.  The computer shows there is still at least 28 miles left to the tank but I didn't want to chance getting stuck in Flagstaff for the night.  Having to sit in the dark cold waiting for a tow truck for some gas is not my idea of fun.  As I make the right turn to head towards the gas station, I notice the computer flashing the temperature at 36F.  Oh crud.  I just hope the temperature stays at this level.  A little lower is OK, but going below 32 is definitely not good.  When I pointed out the temperature to Minh, he was startled, "When did it drop to this level?"

As we head out, I have the bike computer set to ambient temperature sampling the entire time.  It was cold regardless of the heated clothing being on full.  The temperature climbed back up to 40F, but then again dipped back down to 33.8F.  Ugh!  I hope it doesn't get any worse.  As the situation has it, it's worse.  Flashing profusely, the number 32F keeps on blinking.  Not good.  Not good at all.  The only saving grace is there is no sign of anything that resembles ice on the road.  Well, the reality is, I'm hoping there is no ice on the road.  The next thing I knew, I'm riding alone with a couple of cars around me.  "What's happened?  Where did he go?"  Once again I dread Minh not willing to install a radio.  If he did he could have called me to let me know something is wrong.  Instead I'm left to my wandering tired mind guessing as to what might have happened as I sit on the side of the Interstate with my hazard lights on.  Seconds appears like tens of minutes.  Sets of lights go darting pass me and I peer into the night through my rear view mirror.  I occasionally turn my head to look back but it's no better than looking through the mirror.  Damn it's cold!  Finally at long last, I see an extremely bright single light.  As he passes me he honks.  I start the GS and quickly dart back out to catch up.  It turns out his electric vest hookup was loose so he essentially had no heated clothing.  He had to pull over to make that needed electrical mating.

At 70+ MPH in 32F temps, it's freezing!  My arms being exposed to the elements at this speed doesn't help at all.  I draw my feet closer to the bike, tuck my elbows in as far in as I can, and make sure the heated grips are on high.  In these conditions the heated grips are ineffective.  It's more of a psychological effect than a physical effect.  All that I can do is tell myself, "Just put up with it for another 24 miles."  It will be over soon.  Keep going.  The computer is still flashing 32F.  "Is it stuck?  Is it the case where the temperature reading can't go below 32F?"  Once we're in Flagstaff I make a small sigh.  It's back up to 33.9F.  At least there is a little less concern for icing.  In reality I know I'm just fooling myself thinking this.

As we begin our descent to Sedona via the 89A HWY, it's pitch black.  I can't see anything other than what Minh and my light can illuminate through the blackness.  A light tunnel.  The bike computer temperature reading is still flashing.   Without looking at the temperature I know we're still below the 38F computer icing warning threshold.  Eventually I glance down at the temperature readings and see a 29.4F!  Ouch!  That's not cool at all.  I just hope it doesn't stay this way.  It doesn't, but it didn't go too far above 32F.  Cars upon cars start to stack up behind us.  However, I'm not worried about them because we'll out turn them once we hit the switchbacks.  Ugh!  A truck ended up being in front of us.  That's OK.  It's slow going anyway.  The speed limit here is 40 MPH.  Being as dark as it is, I don't think anybody wants to go any faster than 30-35 MPH.  I see the cars behind us giving us plenty of distance.  That's awfully nice of them.

At a third of way down, the temperature is back up.  The temperature display no longer flashes and I see 40F.  Phew!  Now I can just worry about negotiating the road and not have to worry about icing also.  The cars behind us has it easy because our SOLAS tape is helping to show them the way.  Lucky buggers.

Sedona!  52F.  Nice and warm compared to Flagstaff's 32F at 70+ MPH.  We check in to the motel and get settled in for the night.  In the process of taking things into the room, I found out that one of the car behind us was staying at the same motel.  They commented, "We followed you down.  Isn't it rough to be riding a motorcycle on this weather?"  My reply, "It's really not that rough, but 29F made me think I was going to die."

A nice hot shower was in order and we ordered pizza delivered.  After all this cold, I need the fat and the salt.  Man the pizza tastes good!

Something to think about.  At 70 MPH the windchill is equivalent to reducing the temperature by at least 25 degrees.  At 32F it is equivalent to riding in 7F degrees.  That's pretty darn cold.  Another thought came to mind as we end the day.  It turns out that it is good Eugene didn't go on this trip.  This is because I know he doesn't have heated clothing.  If he were to be caught in this situation without heated clothing, we would have definitely gotten sick from exposure.  I guess there is a silver lining in everything that happens.  Eugene!  Go buy yourself some heated clothing if you're going to keep on touring with us, and don't start thinking about pouring half a bottle of Hennessy into yourself is a good way to fight off the cold.

Day 2 - Finally!
Day 3 - Staying out of Prescott.
Day 4 - Still windy as heck.

Written on: October 12, 2011
Last modified: October 15, 2011